June 11, 1999
Bush to Open in Iowa, Amid Texas-Size Hoopla
Aura of Invincibility Shrinks Gifts to Bush Rivals (June 10)
White House 2000: Gov. George W. Bush (R)
Join a Discussion on Election 2000
By FRANCIS X. CLINES
ASHINGTON -- As big
and noisy as the annual Pork Expo is
for Iowa this weekend, the arrival
there of Gov. George W. Bush as a
front-running Presidential candidate
who has yet to make his first major
national speech is looming even larger.
The Texas Governor will formally
touch down on Saturday in Cedar
Rapids, brandishing incumbent-like
trappings and perhaps dangerously
high expectations, with more than
100 reporters in tow to hear his maiden address and signal the official
opening of the year 2000 marathon to
Rarely has such an untested national candidate arrived in Iowa, the
starting point in the grueling Presidential race, in such a theoretically
favorable position as Bush. A
generation ago, Jimmy Carter arrived there, famously carrying his
own garment bag, to make the state
a foundry for political underdogs.
Democratic Party leaders felt
obliged to begin attacking Bush
today, even before he landed, obviously respecting the long early lead
he holds in the Republican field.
"It's clear plenty of people are
looking to pounce," said David Beckwith, a spokesman for the Bush campaign, which is formally in an "exploratory" state. "We realize this is
a hazardous situation, indeed. But
the ground looks very fertile out
there for Bush."
The nation would have to go back
to a war hero, Dwight D. Eisenhower
in 1952, to find someone this untested
emerging this far ahead of his party's pack without being Vice President or having run for national office
before, said Ralph Reed, the Republican campaign strategist.
"He arrives with the classic tension of the front-runner candidacy:
he cannot afford to drift back toward
the rest of the pack, but he has to get
his hands dirty in grass-roots politics," Reed said.
In Bush's dense media shadow, three of his Republican challengers will be in Iowa at the same time,
vying nearby in hopes of an overflow
of attention before the Bush party,
moving grandly as a Presidential
entourage, flies on to New Hampshire to begin priming the second
stage of the nominating competition.
"We want to thank the Governor
for serving as our advance team this
weekend," said Ari Fleischer, a
spokesman for Elizabeth Dole, who
will be working the annual state fairgrounds throng at the Pork Expo in
Des Moines while Bush begins
sketching his views before the nation. Mrs. Dole will be followed by
two other rivals, former Gov. Lamar
Alexander of Tennessee and Representative John R. Kasich of Ohio.
Other Republicans who made sure
to visit Iowa this week in advance of
the feared Bush tide included former
Vice President Dan Quayle; Steve
Forbes, the millionaire publisher;
Gary Bauer, the religious conservative, and Patrick J. Buchanan, the
television commentator. Buchanan demonstrated the power of
the Iowa caucuses in 1996 when he
finished a strong second to Bob Dole
and went on to defeat Dole in the
New Hampshire Republican primary before the party rallied round
Dole in subsequent contests.
"The premium for a candidate in
Iowa is that he seems to be at ease
with the people and enjoy retail campaigning," said Bruce F. Nesmith,
chief of political science at Coe College in Cedar Rapids.
Nesmith said numerous Bush
endorsements from Iowa officials
had been compounding "the general
aura of inevitability" that the Governor bears upon arrival.
Clearly, the main event for
Bush will be the Cedar Rapids stop
and his speech at a barbecue in nearby Amana that his staff has been
polishing for months as his campaign's initial template. While reaching out to the national mainstream,
the Governor will be competing in a
state where politics has a powerful
constituency of social and religious
conservatives. A half-dozen rivals
are focusing on that vote, too, but
Bush's supporters say he will show
he is well prepared to boast such
conservative credentials as a law he
just signed in Texas requiring parental notification in cases of abortions
Governor Bush and his record
were lambasted here this morning
by the Democratic Party leadership
at a breakfast of political journalists.
The party's co-chairmen, Roy
Romer and Joe Andrews, described
Bush as "anointed" but unproven, one of many incumbents who
profited from the booming economy.
The two Democrats wielded a 13-page critique of Bush's record as
Governor, contending that "35 or 40
other governors" can claim his sort
of progress. They predicted that, like
the Titanic, Bush's maiden voyage could soon "hit the iceberg" of
closer public scrutiny.
In a rejoinder, Beckwith, the
Bush campaign spokesman, happily
remarked, "The Democrats are panicking very, very early."
There are essentially two caucus
races going on in Iowa, in the view of
Dennis J. Goldford, chief of politics
and international relations at Drake
University in Des Moines.
"Who will be the establishment
conservative candidate, Bush or
Dole or Forbes? And who will
emerge from the crowd of religious-social conservatives?" Goldford
asked. "Right now, Bush is kind of
sucking up all the political oxygen."
"But his difficulty is he doesn't
want to be the inevitable candidate
who came out of here like Walter
Mondale," Professor Goldford added, referring to the damage suffered
by Mondale in Iowa when his
slippage as the front-runner in the
1984 Democratic race only fed the
rival candidacy of Gary Hart.
Experts are hard pressed to explain the precise reasons why
Bush is showing such a large early
lead over the rest of the Republican
field. Party professionals point to his
popularity in a big state and the
Republicans' general hunger to regain the White House.
While the Governor's polling numbers in the absence of campaigning
have been strong with the public, a
recent CBS News poll found that
when questioners distinguished between Bush and his father, former President George Bush, the
Governor's rating was lower. The
younger Bush was rated 15
points higher when his father was
never mentioned in the pattern of
"He's going to have to start filling
in the blanks," said Peverill Squire, a
political science professor at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. "I can't
think of anybody who has come into
the state with such expectations."
Reed envisioned Bush entering the arena juggling the needs to
be gaffe-proof in behavior and visionary enough in message to start justifying the early hyperbole. "And he
needs to appear at ease, to be enjoying himself," Reed added to this
tricky prescription. "He will."